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A curated weekday guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – DIPLOMACY
Russia is to cut back on its attacks in the Kyiv and Chernihiv areas, Russia’s deputy defense minister Alexander Fomin said yesterday, following a round of peace talks with Ukraine in Istanbul. Polina Ivanova reports for the Financial Times.
In a video address today, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy dismissed Russia’s pledge to drastically cut back its military activity in the Kyiv and Chernihiv areas, saying that “Ukrainians are not naive people” and vowing to continue defensive military efforts. Jon Henley, Pjotr Sauer and Shaun Walker report for the Guardian.
President Biden said yesterday that the U.S. and its European allies were waiting to see if Russia was sincere in ceasefire talks, but had no intention of lifting sanctions against Moscow at this stage. “I don’t read anything into it until I see what their actions are,” Biden said, in response to Russia’s claim that it would limit its operations near Kyiv and the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv. Sabrina Siddiqui reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The Pentagon said yesterday that Russia’s claim that it will reduce its military campaign in two Ukrainian cities is really Moscow “repositioning” troops. “We ought not be fooling — and nobody should be fooling ourselves by the Kremlin’s now recent claim that it will suddenly reduce military attacks near Kyiv or any reports that it’s going to withdraw all of its forces,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said. Jordan Williams reports for The Hill.
Ukraine and Russia have said that they made progress in talks to end the war, with Kyiv presenting its proposal for a neutral status and international security guarantees. In a sign of progress, Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to meet Zelenskyy for the initiation of the treaty once the negotiations are completed, said Moscow’s chief negotiator, Vladimir Medinsky. James Marson, Yaroslav Trofimov and Jared Malsin report for the Wall Street Journal.
The Kremlin has welcomed the fact that Kyiv has set out its demands for an end to the conflict in Ukraine in written form, but said there was no sign of a breakthrough yet. Reuters reports.
Roman Abramovich, has been undertaking a key, unofficial role as a backchannel to Moscow in peace talks between Russia and Ukraine, Ukrainian officials have said. Ukrainian negotiator David Arakhamia, the majority leader in the country’s parliament, said that Abramovich had been included in the formal negotiations in Istanbul because his role as an unofficial go-between had now been widely reported by the media. Jared Malsin reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba warned its negotiators not to eat, drink or even touch anything as they headed to talks with Russia in Istanbul, following allegations that Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich and others may have been poisoned during previous talks. Adela Suliman, Mary Illyushina and Greg Miller report for the Washington Post.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – FIGHTING
Russian missiles have bombarded the besieged Ukrainian city of Chernihiv overnight, the city’s mayor said, hours after the Kremlin claimed it would halt attacks there and in Kyiv during ongoing peace talks. Daniel Boffey reports for the Guardian.
An industrial facility in the western Ukrainian region of Khmelnytsky was hit by three Russian strikes overnight, causing fires, the governor of the area has said. Megan Specia reports for the New York Times.
A missile struck the Mykolaiv Regional State Administration building yesterday morning, Mykolaiv’s governor has said. Seven people died and 22 were injured in the attack, according to Ukraine’s emergency services. Isabelle Khurshudyan reports for the Washington Post.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – HUMANITARIAN CORRIDORS, REFUGEES AND DEPORTATIONS
More than 4 million people have now fled Ukraine, according to the U.N., in an exodus amounting to roughly 10 per cent of the country’s estimated pre-war population. Ellen Francis reports for the Washington Post.
Three humanitarian corridors, agreed on by Russia and Ukraine, will operate today, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshcluk said in a daily video update. She also said Ukraine called on Russia during peace talks in Istanbul to open 97 other corridors for the worst-hit areas. Adela Suliman and Annabelle Chapman report for the Washington Post.
Thousands of residents are being forcibly deported to Russia from the besieged city of Mariupol, according to the city’s council. “What the occupiers are doing today is familiar to the older generation, who saw the horrific events of World War II, when the Nazis forcibly captured people,” Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko said. Kim Bellware reports for the Washington Post.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
The U.S. government and its allies plan to sanction institutions and individuals who help Russian oligarchs hide their assets, while governments are also working on new measures intended to disrupt supply chains necessary to provide Russia with “the tools of war,” Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said yesterday. Paul Hannon reports for the Wall Street Journal.
European Command Chief Gen. Tod Wolters, the top U.S. general in Europe, has said there “could be” a gap in U.S. intelligence gathering that caused the U.S. to overestimate Russia’s military capability and underestimate Ukraine’s defensive abilities before Russia attacked Ukraine. Wolters made the comments in response to a question by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) during testimony to a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing yesterday. Barbara Starr, Ellie Kaufman and Jeremy Herb report for CNN.
Wolters said yesterday that the U.S. is not “currently” training Ukrainian forces in Poland, a day after President Biden appeared to imply that Washington was doing so. “I do not believe that we are in the process of currently training military forces from Ukraine in Poland,” Wolters, who is also NATO’s supreme allied commander in Europe, said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. Jordan Williams reports for The Hill.
Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has accused the U.S. of attacking the country’s critical infrastructure and network systems in a massive cyberattack. In a statement posted on its website, the Russian ministry said the U.S. has targeted “state institutions, the media, critical infrastructure facilities, and life support systems” with allegedly thousands of attacks per day. The U.S. government has called the claims false and part of Russia’s disinformation campaign. Brad Dress reports for The Hill.
A bipartisan group of senators have requested specifics from the Biden administration on defense aid that the U.S. has provided to Ukraine since Russia began its invasion last month. The letter, led by Sens. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), asked White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan for a list of lethal and nonlethal aid provided to Ukraine to date and the status of deliveries. Caroline Vakil reports for The Hill.
Daleep Singh, the Biden administration’s Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economics, will travel this week to India, a major outlier in the effort to pressure Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. Singh and his counterparts will discuss “the consequences of Russia’s unjustified war against Ukraine and mitigating its impact on the global economy,” as well as the economic relationship between the two countries, National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne said in a statement. Brett Samuels reports for The Hill.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, in China today, in their first face-to-face meeting since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The two had a “detailed exchange of views on the situation in Ukraine,” Russian state media outlet Sputnik reported, citing the Russian Foreign Ministry. Eva Dou and Pei Lin Wu report for the Washington Post.
The authorities of Belgium, the Netherlands, Ireland and the Czech Republic announced yesterday that they were expelling a total of 43 Russian envoys, in what the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs said was a coordinated security effort to counter Russian espionage. Ada Petriczko reports for the New York Times.
Two influential Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) members, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have rebuffed calls to expel Russia from a larger oil-production alliance with almost two dozen countries, OPEC+, saying the group had a long history of working together through armed conflicts. “The U.S. and its partners are asking to politicize [OPEC’s relationship with Russia.] We will not do it,” Emirati Energy Minister Suhail bin Mohammed al-Mazrouei said yesterday in Dubai. Benoit Faucon and Summer Said report for the Wall Street Journal.
The U.N. Human Rights Council has named three human rights experts to investigate possible war crimes in Ukraine. The independent panel, led by Erik Mose of Norway, will probe all accusations of rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law “in the context of the aggression against Ukraine by the Russian Federation,” a statement said. Stephanie Nebehay reports for Reuters.
The head of the U.N. World Food Program, David Beasley, warned yesterday that the war in Ukraine was creating a catastrophe affecting local agriculture and global food and grain supplies, “beyond anything we’ve seen since World War II”. Farnaz Fassihi reports for the New York Times.
Germany has declared an “early warning” that it could be heading towards a gas supply emergency amid demands from Russia that it be paid for energy supplies in rubles. Federal Economy Minister Robert Habeck triggered the “early warning,” saying the measure was designed to prepare for a possible disruption or stoppage of natural gas flows from Russia. Miyasha Nulimaimaiti and Andy Eckardt report for NBC News.
The leader of the world’s Eastern Orthodox Church, Patriarch Batholomew, denounced Russia’s attack on Ukraine during a visit to Poland yesterday but stopped short of denouncing Russian President Vladimir Putin. Sophie Downes reports for the New York Times.
Mainstream Indian television channels have been directing “fire and fury” towards the U.S., portraying it as the culprit and instigator of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “While the Russian invasion has galvanized public opinion against President Vladimir Putin in many Western countries, it has had a strikingly different effect in India, reflecting a gulf between the United States and the world’s largest democracy in how each public perceives the war, Russia and the West,” Gerry Shih reports for the Washington Post.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
Matilda Bogner, head of the U.N.’s human rights office in Ukraine, has said that a number of videos showing the abuse of Russian and Ukrainian prisoners were being examined, adding that “on the face of it, it does raise serious concerns.” “It is important that these types of videos and that any ill-treatment that may happen is stopped immediately,” she said, following the broadcast of footage that appeared to show Ukrainian soldiers shooting three captive Russians in their legs. Daniel Boffey reports for the Guardian.
Rafael Grossi, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, promised technical assistance to help prevent the possibility of a “nuclear accident” as he met with government officials and staff at the South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant. Mithil Aggarwal reports for NBC News.
A Palestinian gunman killed five people in an ultra-Orthodox city outside of Tel Aviv on Tuesday night, the latest in a surge of attacks in Israel this month. The shooting was the fifth attack in less than two weeks, and brought the total death toll in recent days to 11. Patrick Kingsley and Gabby Soelman report for the New York Times.
The gunman arrived on a motorcycle and shot four civilians with an assault rifle before being killed in a shootout with security forces in which one police officer was also killed, police said. “The gunman was a 26-year-old from a village near the West Bank city of Jenin who had served six months in prison for a security incident and was residing illegally in Bnei Brak, according to a security official,” Dov Lieber reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Israel’s security forces have bolstered their presence across the country and the occupied territories early today, following the latest shooting. The army has sent reinforcements to the occupied West Bank and forces have also been deployed along the boundary between Israel and Gaza. Patrick Kingsley reports for the New York Times.
The U.S. 5th Fleet and Israel have begun a 10-day maritime exercise that is taking place in and off the coast of Israel. “Intrinsic Defender is a bilateral exercise between U.S. and Israeli naval forces. The exercise focuses on maritime security operations, explosive ordnance disposal, health topics and unmanned systems integration,” a statement from the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command states.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
Officials from the U.S., Russia, China and Pakistan are scheduled to meet in China this week to discuss Afghanistan, according to the State Department and the Chinese Foreign Embassy. The Chinese special envoy for Afghanistan, Yue Xiaoyong, will host the meeting. The U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan, Tom West, will also attend talks of the so-called Extended Troika: China, Russia and the U.S. plus Pakistan, a State Department spokesperson said. Reuters reporting.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, on Wednesday in the eastern Chinese province of Anhui, where China is set to host two days of meetings on Afghanistan. The talks hosted by Wang are set to include representatives from Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban as well as Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The meeting of the Extended Troika will be occurring in the same venue but will not include Lavrov and Wang. Reuters reports.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Hundreds have been arrested in El Salvador in the government’s response to last weekend’s gang violence that left dozens dead. The arrests have stoked fears that the emergency measures that the Salvadoran government brought in following the violence will allow President Nayib Bukele to further consolidate. Maria Abi-Habib and Bryan Avelar report for the New York Times.
The World Bank has suspended four projects in Afghanistan worth $600m after the Taliban banned girls from returning to secondary schools last week. The World Bank’s projects were targeted at giving women and girls as much access to services in Afghanistan as men, including improving education, health and education. BBC News reports.
Early this morning, Mark Vande Hei, like many NASA astronauts before him, entered a Russian spacecraft along with two Russian astronauts for a return trip to Earth. The space station is “one of the few places where day-to-day cooperation between the United States and Russia continues despite the disruption of diplomatic and economic ties because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” Kenneth Chang reports for the New York Times.
A U.N. helicopter crashed on Sunday while carrying peacekeepers on a reconnaissance mission in north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo). The M23 rebel group have denied shooting down the helicopter and have accused the Congolese army of downing the helicopter while attacking their positions. Samba Cyuzuzo reports for BBC News.
The Pakistani military has released the identity of six soldiers who were killed in the helicopter crash in the DR Congo. The helicopter was carrying six crew members from Pakistan and two military staff from Russia and Serbia respectively. The Pakistani military said the cause of the crash was yet to be ascertained. BBC News reports.
Two senior U.K. judges, including the president of the U.K. Supreme Court, have submitted their resignation from non-permanent judges on Hong Kong’s highest court. The judges said that their role was untenable because of a security law China imposed on Hong Kong. Michael Holden reports for Reuters.
JAN. 6, 2021 ATTACK and FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP
Internal White House records from the day of the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol that were turned over to the House select committee investigating the attack show a gap in former President Trump’s phone logs of seven hours and 37 minutes, including during the period when the Capitol was being attacked. “The records show that Trump was active on the phone for part of the day, documenting conversations that he had with at least eight people in the morning and 11 people that evening. The seven-hour gap also stands in stark contrast to the extensive public reporting about phone conversations he had with allies during the attack, such as a call Trump made to Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) — seeking to talk to Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) — and a phone conversation he had with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA),” Bob Woodward and Robert Costa report for the Washington Post.
Further reporting on the White House call logs is provided by Luke Broadwater and Maggie Haberman for the New York Times.
The Jan. 6 select committee is trying to fill in the 7 hours gap in the White House call logs from Jan. 6, 2021, lawmakers on the committee have said. The committee is also looking into the possibility that Trump used a disposable burner phone that would not have shown up in the call logs. Lindsay Wise and Natalie Andrews report for the Wall Street Journal. Lindsay Wise and Natalie Andrews report for the Wall Street Journal.
The top two Justice Department officials in the final days of Trump’s presidency are cooperating with District of Columbia Office of Disciplinary Counsel’s ethics probe of their former colleague Jeffrey Clark, who tried to help Trump overturn the 2020 election result. Jeffrey Rosen, who served as acting Attorney General, and Richard Donoghue, his former acting deputy, each have given voluntary interviews in recent months to the Washington legal body, according to a source. Both received approval from the Justice Department beforehand. Sarah N. Lynch reports for Reuters.
Federal prosecutors and congressional investigators are gathering evidence of how a tweet by Trump less than three weeks before the Jan. 6, 2021 attack, served as a crucial call to action for extremist groups. Trump’s Twitter post, which concluded with, “Be there, will be wild!, in the early hours of Dec. 19, 2020, was the first time he publicly urged supporters to come to Washington on the day Congress was scheduled to certify the Electoral College results. It “has long been seen as instrumental in drawing the crowds that attended a pro-Trump rally on the Ellipse on Jan. 6 and then marched to the Capitol. But the Justice Department’s criminal investigation of the riot and the parallel inquiry by the House select committee have increasingly shown how Trump’s post was a powerful catalyst, particularly for far-right militants,” Alan Feuer, Michael S. Schmidt and Luke Broadwater report for the New York Times.
The Jan. 6 select committee is expected to interview Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner this week. Kushner served as a senior West Wing aide during the Trump administration. He is expected to sit for a voluntary interview with the committee, according to sources familiar with the plans. Benjamin Siegel, John Santucci, andKatherine Faulders report for ABC News.
Biden’s White House has decided against asserting executive privilege over any aspects of the testimony from Kushner and Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump. “White House communications director Kate Bedingfield reiterated Biden’s belief that the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol represented a unique threat to democracy and that ‘the constitutional protection of executive privilege should not be used to shield from Congress or the public information about an attack on the Constitution itself,’” Morgan Chalfant reports for The Hill.
Text messages from Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, to Mark Meadors, a former White House chief of staff, leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021 attack have sparked questions over the extent of her activism within the Republican party and have left Republican lawmakers grappling how to respond to her and her husband. Thomas sent a total of 21 text messages to Meadows urging him to find a way to keep Trump in office, and there are reports that Thomas also reached out to an aide with the Republican Study Committee, asking for its members to go “out in the streets.” Rebecca Beitsch and Emily Brooks report for The Hill.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has called on Justice Clarence Thomas to resign or face impeachment for what she depicted as a pattern of ethical breaches, becoming the latest in a series of Democratic lawmakers and legal experts to intensify ethical scrutiny of Thomas. “Clarence Thomas should resign. If not, his failure to disclose income from right-wing organizations, recuse himself from matters involving his wife and his vote to block the Jan 6th commission from key information must be investigated and could serve as grounds for impeachment,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter. John Kruzel reports for The Hill.
The Justice Department is compiling information to share with defendants about Ray Epps, a former Oath Keeper who has been the focus of Jan. 6 conspiracy theories pushed by Trump, his allies in Congress and right-wing media figures. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Rochlin said in court yesterday that she intended to provide a “disclosure” about Epps, whom right-wing media outlets have accused of being a government informant, in response to requests by Jan. 6 defendants accused of leading the breach of police lines. Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney report for POLITICO.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
President Biden’s administration is bracing for an unprecedented increase of illegal crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border this spring and summer, as officials weigh whether to lift a pandemic-era policy which allows Border Patrol agents to turn away migrants seeking asylum. The number of migrants crossing the southern border has increased in recent weeks to the levels seen last summer and officials are projecting that crossings will continue to rise as the weather improves and political instability and economic hardship roils part of Latin America. Michelle Hackman reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Biden has signed a bill into law that makes lynching a federal hate crime. During a White House Rose Garden signing ceremony, Biden acknowledged how racial violence has left a lasting scar on the U.S. and has a continued impact. Kate Sullivan and Maegan Vazquez report for CNN.
In a new interview published yesterday, former President Trump asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to release any damaging information he has about the Biden family. “In an interview with JustTheNews, Trump pushed an unproven claim about Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Russia, and asked Putin to release any information that he might have about the situation,” Marshall Cohen reports for CNN.
Axie Infinity, the owners of Ronin, one of the most popular blockchain-based online games, have been targeted by hackers that were able to steal assets worth about $625 million from the gaming company and its players. “Ronin said Tuesday in a blog post that hackers were able to essentially take control of the network and send 173,600 ethers, worth about $600 million, to an anonymous Ethereum wallet. The hackers were also able to withdraw about $25.5 million of USD coin, which is a digital currency pegged to the value of the U.S. dollar,” David Ingram and Jason Abbruzzese report for NBC News.
COVID-19 has infected over 80.01 million people and has now killed over 978,600 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 485.27 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.13 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
A group of 21 states have filed a lawsuit that seeks to stop President Biden’s administration from requiring travelers in the U.S. to wear masks on airplanes, trains, taxis, buses and other forms of public transit. “The lawsuit, filed by 21 Republican state attorneys general in federal court in Tampa, Fla., argues the mandate is an unlawful and heavy-handed precaution that is out of step with a recent easing of pandemic restrictions amid declining rates of Covid cases and hospitalizations,” Jacob Gershman reports for the Wall Street Journal.
A map and analysis of the vaccine roll out across the U.S. is available at the New York Times.
A map and analysis of all confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. is available at the New York Times.
U.S. and worldwide maps tracking the spread of the pandemic are available at the Washington Post.
A state-by-state guide to lockdown measures and reopenings is provided by the New York Times.